Sometimes you need a spot for a birthday celebration, or a group dinner, or a date. And sometimes you need a place where you can relax and get a great meal by yourself. Not all restaurants - even great ones - fit the bill for this, which is why we made this guide.
The criteria for our list is pretty simple: One, there must be a bar (or counter-type seating) where the entire menu can be ordered. Two, you should feel comfortable by yourself, which means a friendly, casual environment. Finally, the food has to be suitable for one person. Burgers, sushi, pasta, maybe even a big salad? Yes. A bunch of small plates? Not so much. Whether you’re treating yourself to some me-time or just avoiding a fifth takeout sandwich this week, try one of these spots for a great dinner alone.
It would be ideal to roll in here after a long flight, cut into a burger or pot pie alongside a stiff drink, and then take a swan dive into your bed. We like the dimly-lit, taxidermy-filled lumberjack cabin thing Smith has going on, the aforementioned burger, and the excellent drinks. We also like not having to share any of those things with somebody else.
On a rainy day, you want to be hanging out on a barstool at Damn The Weather. The atmosphere is lively, and you can make your meal anything from some oysters to a bowl of pasta to a big burger with chicken fat fries. This is also not a bad place to bring your laptop and maybe get some work done over a cocktail.
During peak times, your chances of getting into Bar Del Corso are practically quadrupled if you show up alone. Once you have a spot at the bar, the only thing you need to worry about is which type of charred Neapolitan pizza you want (trick question: get the margherita with buffalo mozzarella). Add a glass of wine and an order of tomato risotto croquettes for one of the best solo Italian experiences in the city.
Another example of a place it can be tough to get into unless you’re alone. No Anchor has a neat nautical basement feel, there’s a good chance the staff will strike up a conversation with you, and the seafood rolls on pretzel buns with homemade potato chips are amazing. Plus, appetizers like radishes with parmesan custard or crispy old bay chickpeas won’t fill you up before your main course. Add an interesting beer on tap, like a smoked pear saison or oak-aged cherry sour, too.
If you’re not going to be staring at your phone for an hour, it doesn’t hurt to be inside a restaurant that’s nice to look at. Manolin, one of the best places in the city to eat seafood, has a huge, U-shaped marble bar where you can watch the cooks prep your ceviche or smoked salmon or grilled cod with mole.
Chan is a small Korean gastropub below Pike Place Market, and they don’t take reservations, so naturally it’s tough to get in when they’re busy. But with some luck, you can secure a spot at the bar and have a quick meal of bulgogi sliders with cucumber kimchi and spicy mayo, or a big bibimbap bowl, or a braised short rib. Wash it down with a beer or a lychee rickey and be on your way.
The atmosphere at Opus Co. is pretty casual, but the food is creative and seriously good. We’re talking about things like a soy sauce/buttermilk-brined roasted chicken with malt vinegar caramel, or beet salad with homemade queso fresco, jerk-spiced pumpkin seeds, and a charred leek dressing. It all tastes better when you’re sitting at the chef’s counter with that book you’re furiously trying to finish in time for book club. Just make a reservation in advance - this place is tiny.
Knowing that Harry’s Fine Foods exists is like remembering that Oprah once gave everyone in her talk show audience a car - it makes you feel good. This is a low-key neighborhood spot away from the busier parts of Cap Hill, and inside it’s like a cross between a fancy parlor and a general store, if general stores contained ferns and really good negronis. The menu has everything from lasagna to crudo to a delicious cheeseburger that comes with incredible herb-infused fries and a tangy green sauce.
We like Kamei for a few reasons. First, the people running it are super nice. Second, the sushi is reliably good. Third, the prices are extremely reasonable. So all in all, it’s the perfect place to eat a casual dinner and finally text your mom.
Another low-key sushi spot with a lot going for it. This place is in the thick of the Capitol Hill nightlife insanity, but it’s pretty relaxing inside. Sit at the counter, where you can chat with the sushi chefs and the presentation of everything you eat will make you feel like you’re treating yourself. This is a good place to grab a quick dinner before you meet up with friends elsewhere in the neighborhood.
Artusi is the sister spot to Spinasse, which is our favorite place for date night Italian. Artusi is better for a solo meal, though. Sit at the bar among the hanging lights that look like wind chimes, take in the smells of grilled bread and olive oil, and start with a cocktail. Then, get a nice plate of pasta like homemade cavatelli with braised short rib or some mushroom risotto. You could even do a bowl of meatballs with garlic bread and call it a day - but you’re not allowed to call anything until you finish with a scoop of homemade gelato.
There are solo dinners where you want to make some small talk about the Mariners or whatever to the bartender, and then there are solo dinners where you want to get in, eat some great food, and get out, without having to say more than your order to another person. This is easily achievable at Fremont Bowl. This counter-service spot specializes in donburi bowls topped with things like sashimi, teriyaki chicken, and poke (we’re especially big fans of the seared salmon bowl). Don’t be shy with the smoky housemade soy sauce - it’s delicious.
Sitting at the bar with a frozen painkiller slushie is always a thing we’ll sign up for at Bait Shop. Even though it’s not too loud inside this roadside tackle shop-inspired space, you’ll still feel like you’re part of the action. The french fries here are some of the best in the city, so get yours in a basket of fish and chips or alongside a fried cod sandwich.
The chef’s counter at Le Messe, which overlooks their open kitchen, was practically designed for solo eating. You can order anything from the regular menu there, but there’s another special menu exclusively for people seated at the bar. Get a big bowl of parmesan-topped pasta like bucatini with pancetta and egg yolk or strozzapreti with root vegetables, or go for a well-cooked steak. There’s just something cool about sitting alone with a glass of wine while watching people run around some stoves preparing your dinner. And if it reminds you too much of last Thanksgiving, get another drink.
You were about to book that solo trip to whatever island was trending on your social media feed, but then you realized the steep price tag was only for a one-way. Stateside is the perfect substitute, since you can feel like you’re on a beachside vacation without all of the sand and sun poisoning. OK, maybe it’s not exactly a true substitute, but the printed palm wallpaper and string lights help. Grab a seat at the bar, and anything from the Vietnamese-fusion menu - like bun cha, or the excellent crispy chicken with a spicy ginger sauce.
Speaking of chicken, Ma’ono is another pretty fantastic place to eat it. You can order just a quarter-bird, so that plus a side dish like corn on the cob with miso furikake caramel or kimchi mac and cheese works perfectly. You could also go for a spicy fried chicken sandwich. No matter what, end with a slice of banana cream cacao nib pie, because you deserve it.
Sometimes you just need to eat tacos and drink a margarita in an exciting space that makes you feel like you did something fun even, though it’s a Friday and you have no plans. Mezcaleria Oaxaca is your spot. Get some al pastor tacos, or a Mexican chicken soup, or, if you had a bad day, a giant quesadilla. Do it all at the bar with a huge glass of something containing tequila.